NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
February 12, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
In discussing parental alienation of children, I’ve many times commented on how thorny a problem allegations of PA can present to judges and custody evaluators. In about one-third of cases in which child abuse is alleged, alienation is as well. Imagine being a judge and having to sort out the competing claims and proffers of evidence and arrive at a decision. There may be no abuse and no alienation or there may be both. Or there may be alienation and not abuse or vice versa. And all allegations are presented in the most heated rhetoric. Sound easy? It’s not.
Trickiest of all is the question whether a child’s rejection of a parent is justified or not. One of the key indicators of PA isn’t simply rejection, but unjustified rejection. So how’s a judge to figure out whether an angry and rejecting child is engaging in appropriate or inappropriate behavior? There’s no case a judge less likes to hear than one including allegations of abuse and alienation.
Understandably, judges usually try to reach the right conclusion by resort to mental health professionals. After all, at least they have training and experience in evaluating children’s behavior and therefore may be in a position to identify PA or its absence. The problem with that approach is that, whatever their training and experience, making that evaluation can be hard for court-appointed evaluators too. Indeed, complaints of wrong findings of alienation and wrong findings of no alienation are rife.
February 10, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
NPO’s shared parenting bill has passed the state Senate by a whopping 39 – 1 margin. Here’s SB 157 in its amended form.
The key language of course is,
(2) In making an order for a temporary parenting plan, there shall be a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for fit, willing and able parents to have temporary joint legal custody and share equally in parenting time.
The bill only applies to temporary orders, but that’s a good thing for two reasons. First, the custody arrangement during the pendency of the divorce case can easily become the arrangement afterward. Temporary orders have a way of becoming permanent.
Second, as we saw in Kentucky three years ago, once the legislature passes a shared parenting bill that applies to temporary orders, it becomes easier the following session to pass one for permanent orders. Temporary orders get the camel’s nose under the tent and, once in, it’s only a matter of time before the beast is all the way inside.
Now of course the bill goes to the House.
It’s not a perfect bill, but few are. The main danger to shared parenting comes here:
(1) If there is presentation of documentation or other information by a parent that would support a finding of good cause that domestic abuse has occurred or is occurring, there shall be a presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child for the parents to have temporary joint legal custody and share equally in parenting time.
That’s scandalously (unconstitutionally?) vague language that can mean practically anything. Notice for example that the section says nothing about evidence, so apparently, none of the “documentation” or “information” need be admissible in a court of law. That opens the door to, well, anything anyone wants to toss up on the judge’s desk. Likewise, the words “would support a finding” are subject to a wide array of interpretations. What, for example, is the quantum of evidence required before such a finding can be made? The section is silent. Again, the bill offers no guidance to judges about what they can or can’t do when an allegation of DV is made.
February 7, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
This article gives a pretty good idea of the dysfunctional nature of the child support system in the United States (Kansas City Star, 1/26/20). The state in question is Missouri, but the issues are the same from sea to shining sea and beyond.
Case in point: that of Rebecca Greenwell. Back in 2001, she was ordered to pay child support for her two kids. She did for almost five years, but then experienced health problems (emphysema and herniated spinal discs) that severely limited her ability to work and earn. The state’s solution? Put her in jail. Of course that didn’t help her pay, nor did it improve her health, so Greenwell plunged further and further into debt.
So the latest threat against her is a six-month stretch in jail, a prospect Greenwall understandably dreads. But she probably won’t go inside again. Why? Because her daughter, who’s now 20 years old, pays the child support for her. That’s right, the daughter for whom she owes the support in the first place is paying it for her mother. Amazing, but true.
Now, what the article doesn’t mention is that other versions of Greenwell’s case are actually fairly common. It’s true that the payor isn’t usually the child for whom the support is intended, but the fact remains that, when a parent is faced with jail, others often step up to make sure that doesn’t happen. So, relatives, friends or neighbors often pitch in to pay child support they don’t owe, just to keep the state from jailing a parent who’s too poor to pay.
And, speaking of the poor, that’s who typically fall under the State of Missouri’s axe in child support court. That’s not surprising, given that the same is true throughout the country and, as elsewhere, in Missouri, the poor don’t get much of a day in court when they fall behind on their payments.
February 6, 2020 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors
I’ve written many times about the tendency of child protective authorities to overreach, i.e. to intervene in families when doing so isn’t warranted by the situation. Last time I wrote about the case of Dr. John Cox who, despite over a dozen doctors saying he hadn’t injured his infant daughter, has had the child taken from him and his wife and now faces felony child abuse charges. Key to the child’s removal by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families were the opinions “child abuse pediatricians,” a small but growing set of medical specialists whose very existence is troubling to many. Dr. Cox’s case looks like a good example of why and NBC and the Houston Chronicle have publicized several others.
But even those who believe that the current approach to child protection is, on balance, doing its job well, would have to admit that the use of child abuse doctors has its disturbing downsides. In my last post, mentioned the tendency to exacerbate overreach and the problem with conflicts of interest, but there’s another problem.
Cox’s ordeal has also opened a rift at Children’s Wisconsin, where some treating physicians say they are so alarmed by what’s happened to him that they now hesitate to refer injured children for evaluations by child abuse pediatricians, fearing that an abuse specialist might jump to the wrong conclusion and needlessly report parents to Child Protective Services.
In other words, the existence and nature of child abuse doctors sometimes causes other doctors to avoid their input into cases of injured children. Surely that’s not the result child protective officials would want, but it’s the one their interactions with child abuse doctors has produced. After all, Dr. Cox put the matter succinctly when he said,
February 4, 2020
A video-taped symposium on ‘Reducing Parental Conflict and Harm to Children’ was held last week at the Connecticut Legislature.
The first invited speaker was Professor Martin Kulldorff at Harvard Medical School, who talked about the ‘Scientific Evidence on Shared Parenting’ (video @32:00). Based on a review paper by Dr. Linda Nielsen, he presented the scientific evidence that shared parenting is in the best interest of the great majority of children, in terms of mental health, physical health, behavior and inter-personal relationships. From tables containing effect estimates from each outcome in each study, there were overwhelming evidence that shared parenting is better, and for some outcomes, the differences were surprisingly large. He concluded that there is a family court paradox between (i) the best interest of the child principle, (ii) the scientific evidence that shared parenting is in the best interest of the vast majority of children, and (iii) the fact that only a minority of children live in a shared custody arrangement. Dr. Kulldorff ended his presentation stating that if shared parenting was a medical drug, it would easily be approved by the FDA for its mental health benefits and the pharmaceutical company would make billons from it.
February 4, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
This excellent article is the latest in a series by NBC News and (sometimes) the Houston Chronicle (NBC News, 1/27/20). The series deals with the rising “specialty” of child abuse physicians, i.e. those who are supposedly uniquely trained and qualified to diagnose intentional injuries to children. Those physicians don’t necessarily have a conflict of interest, but, as the article demonstrates, they often seem to adopt one. Plus, as the NBC piece also makes clear, the very existence of the specialty can produce other more sinister ethical violations.
The piece is long and too detailed to adequately describe here. Suffice it to say, that Dr. John Cox, an ER physician and his wife, Dr. Sadie Dombrozsi, an oncologist and hematologist, were in the process of adopting a baby girl. They’d already adopted two boys and appear to have been entirely loving and fit parents to them. But, not long after they’d brought home their one-month-old daughter-to-be, Cox fell asleep with the baby beside him. When he awoke, he was partially on top of her. The child was in no distress, but Cox was concerned. He called his wife who was out of town with the boys and together they decided to “err on the side of caution” and take the baby to Children’s Wisconsin hospital at which they both worked.
As events developed, that turned out to be the least cautious thing they could have done. Months later, the baby has been taken from them by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and John is under felony indictment for child abuse. The latter of course threatens not only his freedom, but his livelihood. That is all true despite the fact that there is no clear evidence of abuse, the pair have always been good parents to their other children and numerous doctors have looked into the case and found no reason to believe abuse occurred.
February 3, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
In case anyone missed the point of Naomi Cahn’s article in Forbes, she’s the very soul of clarity (Forbes, 1/26/20).
June Carbone, a family law professor at the University of Minnesota, finds [Joan Meier’s] study highly troubling: “It shows the power of the shared parenting idea. An abuse allegation rejects the possibility of shared parenting. Parents who allege alienation by the other parent cloak themselves in the mantle of the shared parenting norm and judges reward them, even if the parent is an abuser."
Yes, the whole point is to cast aspersions on shared parenting. Cahn does so by accepting without question the findings of Joan Meier’s study of litigated and appealed cases in family courts. The fact that the study is laughably bad deterred Cahn not a whit. I dealt with Meier’s study here, here, here and here.
The shortcomings of her work are far too numerous to detail here (for that, see the linked-to posts), but perhaps the most important one is her failure to even try to ascertain whether judges were getting right the orders they made. Meier’s study deals with cases in which mothers alleged some sort of domestic violence or child abuse against a father who then either did or did not claim parental alienation by her. She found that in some cases judges sided with the father and in some with the mother. She (and Cahn and others) then leap to conclude that this constitutes a problem, the underlying assumptions apparently being that all such allegations by mothers must be well-founded and all such claims by fathers must not be.
January 31, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The shoddy work of Joan Meier is back in the news (Forbes, 1/26/20). And this time the article reporting on her work is even worse than previous ones. Back in August I reported on a piece in the Washington Post whose idea of “balance” was a one-sentence quotation by Prof. Nicolas Bala who criticized Meier’s methodology in her most recent study. The rest of the Post piece swallowed Meier’s claims hook, line and sinker. But for law professor Naomi Cahn, writing in Forbes, even that modest nod to journalistic integrity is too much. Cahn didn’t bother to pick up her phone and chat with anyone who might have been critical of Meier’s study. In the whole article, there’s no hint of the serious shortcomings in Meier’s work.
The core of Meier’s and Cahn’s claims is that fathers use false claims of parental alienation to wrest custody from mothers. They do so particularly when mothers allege some form of DV or child abuse to a family court. Cahn, who, just like Meier, is a law professor at George Washington University asks no questions, but merely regurgitates Meier’s claims.
We often see commentary to the effect that men do less housework and childcare than do women, facts borne out by many authoritative datasets like those produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The gist of that commentary is usually that, if men would only “step up” and do their share, then women would be freed to become equal in the workplace. That is, men hold women back.
Now, as I’ve often said, the weaknesses of that commentary are too many to address in a limited space. But generally, they boil down to the fact that, if a woman wants her life to emphasize paid work, there’s nothing preventing her from doing so. The simple fact is that most women want children and, having given birth to them, aren’t generally very enthusiastic about leaving them behind to rush back to the office. They didn’t have them just to have them; they want to love and nurture them too. The further fact is that women’s biological makeup urges them to do just that. The biochemical connections between mothers and their offspring have always created parent-child bonds that all but demand that Mom see to her children before anything else. This shouldn’t be news, but, in our Brave New World, certain basics sometimes seem to be.
Now, given that propensity for mothers to care for their children, comes a corollary – that Dad be the family’s resource provider. The one tends to beget the other. Needless to say, I would never contend that mothers don’t work and earn. Of course most of them do. But the great majority of primary family breadwinners are men and the main reason is that mothers tend to prioritize childcare.
NPO is honored to be a sponsor of FATHERLESS to FATHERHOODhosted by The Fatherless Generation Foundation Inc. & Dr. Torri J.in partnership with All Pro Dad.This live event will be on February 1 in Miami at the Superbowl LIV Miami Experience. Our Executive Director Ginger Gentile will be on a panel with actor Omar Epps, pro football player Julio Jones, advocate Mark Merrill, and Dr. Torri J discussing the impact of children growing up in fatherless home and solutions. Some topics will be:
-Struggling with how to be a father because you did not have one?
-Challenged by how to maintain proper relationships because you did not see one demonstrated in your household growing up?
-Covering up childhood wounds with success?
-Struggling on how to raise your children in the absence of their father?
Missouri Rebuttable Presumption bill HB 1765 will have a hearing January 28 at 6 pm and SB 531 will have a hearing January 29 at 8 am. These bills are identical to the ones from last session. We are very excited that these bills will be heard so soon in session. Representative Swan and Senator Wallingford both are making these bills a priority this year, so hopefully we can finally get them to the Governor for his signature! Click here to fill out a witness form for the Senate bill hearing and click here to fill out a witness form for the House bill hearing.
Are we learning? Is it possible that we’ve experimented with abandoning the two-parent, intact family, found the results wanting and are starting to return to sanity?
Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies analyzed the latest data from the American Community Survey for 2018. What he’s found is a bottoming out of the trend toward single-parent childrearing and even a slight trend in the opposite direction. From 2014 – 2018, the percentage of children living outside of the traditional two-biological-parent household actually dropped. From 2001 to 2011, it remained stable.
[S]ince 2014, the share of children living with two married parents has risen ever-so-slightly, from 61.8% to 62.3% in 2018, and data from early 2019 in the Current Population Survey suggest that 2019 will show further improvement. The period from 2011 to 2019 is the longest period of stability or improvement in children’s living situations since the 1950s.
Obviously, a half-a-percentage point increase isn’t much, but it comes after a fairly long period of stable numbers. Is all that a precursor to greater positive change? Hang around for the next half century and I’ll let you know.
Needless to say, the changes in family structure over the past 60 years have been one of our society’s most remarkable features. In 1960, about 13% of kids lived outside a traditional family. By 2000, that number had ballooned to about 35% and the trend was worsening. But then in about 2010, it evened out and began to reverse.
January 24, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
In Virginia, there’s a bill, HB 1500, that deserves support. If enacted into law, the foundations of civilization won’t quake, but it will make a modest improvement to the status quo.
In 2018, Congress changed the Tax Code to make spousal support a nullity for tax purposes. That is, spousal support is no longer income to the recipient and no longer deductible by the payor. Each is a reversal of what had gone before.
How Congress came up with that brilliant idea, I assume I’ll never know. After all, in most cases in which income is transferred from one entity to another, the recipient is required to report it as income. And in some of those cases, the payor may deduct the amount transferred from his/her taxable income.
As to spousal support, that’s no longer the case. That of course constitutes a significant windfall to recipients and a further blow to the pocketbooks of payors.
So the Virginia bill seeks to ameliorate that situation, at least a bit. It does so be simply reducing the amounts called for in the state’s guidelines for spousal support. In so doing, it would decrease the amount paid and received in what approximates the increases caused by the new tax law. In short, it tries to get Virginians back to where they were before Congress acted.
The Netflix film MARRIAGE STORY about a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal extremes, has gotten over six Academy Award nominations. This hit film is a great tool to promote default shared parenting as it shows a couple that loves each other, thinks the other parent is a great at taking care of their son but still spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a custody battle. Key scenes highlight how lawyers fuel conflict and the overburdened family courts encourage fighting instead of helping families heal.
Watch NPO's Executive Director Ginger Gentile on a Facebook Video discussion how to reference heartbreaking scenes to promote family court reform. If you want to be part of the solution, join your local chapter of NPO today!
Watch the trailer here:
January 17, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
A British Columbia psychologist has been disciplined (sort of) for her role in a contentious child custody case (CBC, 1/14/20). Dr. Cindy Hardy committed multiple ethical violations that resulted in the child’s father being prohibited from seeing his son for over a year.
The origins of the case are obscure and none of the family members have been named either in the linked-to article or the findings of Dr. Lynn Zutter, panel chair of the Health Professions Review Board. Suffice it to say however, that, from this far remove, it appears as if Hardy actively participated in a campaign of parental alienation on behalf of the mother against the father. It further appears that, despite being found to have committed ethical violations, neither the College of Psychology of British Columbia nor the HPRB punished her behavior in any meaningful way.
In ways unexplained, the custody and parenting time matters were, in early 2016, being heard simultaneously in two courts, one in Alberta and the other in British Columbia. The child’s mother retained Dr. Hardy to assess the child, informing her that he feared spending time with his father. Hardy had little or no experience conducting forensic psychological evaluations, but did so anyway. She did so without a word to the father and indeed, throughout the entire case made no effort to contact him. Needless to say, she failed to obtain his informed consent to evaluate his son, a clear violation of professional ethics.
But it seems that Hardy was more interested in assisting the mother than in scrupulous compliance with ethics. Her initial approach to assessing the child was to have him complete the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Third (BASC-3). That’s a very standard way to begin, but, remarkably, she allowed the child to take the assessment tool home and complete it there under the watchful eye of his mother.
So situated, the child answered one question to the effect that he had contemplated self-harm. Hardy interpreted that to mean that he did so because of his concern about going to spend time with his father. There was nothing to make that connection but the mother’s say-so, but Hardy made it anyway. Later, when the child re-took the BASC-3 and answered the same question the opposite way (i.e. that he didn’t contemplate self-harm), Hardy announced that the results of the tests were invalid and couldn’t be used to assess the child.
January 17, 2020 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors
In my last piece, I criticized Danish historian Mikael Jalving’s piece in Quillette entitled “Scandinavia: Can the New Parental Team Replace Marriage?” (Quillette, 1/2/20) I did so because of his strange conclusion that shared parenting (and the scientific evidence supporting it) is dangerous because it encourages divorce. Needless to say, he cited no evidence for the proposition.
Nor did he mention that, in the U.S. at least, we know from Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen’s work that it’s precisely the prospect of sole parenting that encourages divorce. The two researchers found that women tend strongly to file for divorce because they know that the sole-parenting custom by judges means they know they won’t lose their kids. If anything, that suggests that equal parenting would tend to discourage divorce filings.
As I said in my last piece, people divorce, whether Jalving likes it or not. Given that, surely public policy should be informed by the science on children’s welfare when their parents split up. And that science points directly to shared parenting. It’s an obvious point that Jalving missed due to his antipathy for government interference in families.
I of course share that antipathy, at least to an extent, and Jalving makes some important points about the relationship between families and governments. I’ve been studying and writing about families, children, parents and family law for over two decades now and my strong take on the subject Jalving raises is that governments are poor substitutes for parents. They prove it every day.
January 14, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Shared parenting is once again under fire, this time from here (Quillette, 1/2/20). It’s a curious piece, part inexcusable ignorance and part pithy questions about the uneasy interface between the state and the family.
Danish historian Mikael Jalving has read Malin Bergström’s book, Divorcing with Children: Parents in Two Homes. The problem seems to be that, as to shared parenting, that’s all he’s read.
Bergström of course is one of the most important researchers into family structure and child well-being. Her massive studies of Swedish families indicate that equal parenting is the second-best arrangement for kids, the first being intact biological families. The good news is that, as other researchers have shown, Swedes are taking to equal parenting like no other parents in the world.
“In Sweden, [Joint-Parent Custody] has become as common as living mostly with the mother after parents separate. The proportion of Swedish children in JPC was about 1 percent of children with separated parents in the mid-1980s, but is now between 35 percent and 40 percent. Of all children between 12 and 15 years of age, 1 in 10 are in JPC…Indeed, for 3-year-old children, JPC is nearly twice as common as SPC [Single-Parent Custody], at least among Swedish-born and well-educated parents…”
I call that the good news because clearly Swedish parents, partly in the spirit of gender equality and partly for the good of the kids, have embraced equal parenting. But it’s not good news to Jalving. Why? He’s suspicious of equal parenting arrangements because, according to him, they encourage divorce or what he calls “guilt-free” divorce. He of course offers no support for his claim. Has the divorce rate gone up after the inauguration of shared parenting legislation in Sweden? If it has, he doesn’t mention it.
January 13, 2020 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors
An Idaho court has ordered a woman, Kaytlyn Ann Graefe, 21, to pay child support for two children who aren’t hers (Idaho Mountain Express, 12/27/19). The reason? She killed their mother.
It seems that Idaho has a statute requiring anyone who commits vehicular manslaughter of an adult with minor children to pay child support for those children until age 18. And that’s what Graefe did. Her story is particularly disgusting because she had a lengthy record of driving while intoxicated, together with lenient, non-custodial sentences by courts. She’d been placed on probation several times conditioned on her not driving while intoxicated. She did so anyway until finally she killed Georgina Ubence, 37.
During an emotional sentencing hearing in Blaine County Magistrate Court, Javier Ubence—the husband of Georgina Ubence, 37, who was killed in the accident—told the court during his victim’s impact statement that the judicial system had failed him and his dead wife by repeatedly giving Graefe suspended jail sentences and continuing to put her on supervised probation, which she regularly violated, for previous misdemeanor drug and driving offenses.
This time Graefe spent 348 days in jail awaiting trial, unable to afford bail. But, as an aside, I can’t help but mention this:
Graefe, of Shoshone, pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanors on June 24 and was sentenced on July 10…
January 10, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
This is that rarest of birds, an editorial that doesn’t take a stand (Japan Times, 12/21/19). Generally speaking, editorials are supposed to argue in favor or against a particular issue. That’s what sets them apart from news articles that, supposedly, present “both” sides of every story. So it’s strange to see an editorial that reads like a news piece. It’s even stranger that the editorial in question so carefully takes a “this, but also that” approach as to be close to meaningless.
Still, we can glean certain facts from it.
Japan is about to embark on a journey to decide whether to abandon sole custody of children in favor of shared custody. Whether that means legal custody, physical custody or both, the article doesn’t say. But what’s clear is that Japanese parents are not happy with the current status quo. A group of them have sued the government for negligence in the way it handles child custody cases. Such a suit would be legally impossible in this country, so it’ll be interesting to learn how this one turns out.
What the article also carefully ignores is the fact that, in Japan, an overwhelming percentage of custody cases result in sole maternal care of children.
Understandably, the sole-custody status quo has consequences that likely weren’t intended when the law mandating sole custody went into effect.
January 2, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Is the Texas state agency charged with protecting children – the Department of Family and Protective Services, that oversees CPS – in line for a shakeup? This article strongly suggests that it may be (The Hill, 12/24/19).
Writer Andrew Brown of the Center for Families and Children at the Texas Public Policy Foundation argues for three initiatives to make the DFPS more accountable to parents, children and the law.
First, lawmakers must clarify statutory procedures and strengthen the evidentiary standards DFPS and the courts rely upon when making the decision to remove children [from their parents]. Under current law in Texas and several other states, all it takes to remove a child is evidence sufficient to believe that a child is in danger. This is an incredibly low standard.
That’s putting it mildly. For the most part, children, like the rest of us, are in danger frequently. Crossing a street can be dangerous as can sitting in a school classroom. But parents allowing children to cross a street or attend school aren’t placing them in danger of imminent harm,which is more like what the standard should be.
But more importantly, the Texas Supreme Court has held that any action by state officials that interferes with the parent-child relationship “can never be justified without the most solid and substantial reasons.” Needless to say, CPS caseworkers ignore that requirement as a matter of course.
Brown gives as an example of their doing so the case of Drake Pardo, age four. Drake had difficulty getting enough nourishment, so his parents, Daniel and Ashley Pardo, took him to a doctor who said that a feeding tube inserted into his stomach might be required. CPS caseworkers managed to distort the Pardo’s interest in such a feeding tube into a charge of medical abuse by them of their son. Not content with that, they represented to a judge that the matter was an emergency that required Drake to be taken immediately from his parents.
December 30, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Back in October, the Australian Institute of Family Studies published its study of some 6,000 families who’d divorced. Its focus was on the choices made by the parents during that process and the outcomes they achieved, mostly in custody and parenting time. Nothing in the report is earth-shattering, but still it’s instructive. One of the many problems with family laws and family courts is paucity of hard data we have on just what those outcomes are. It takes money and time to go to courts and read, analyze and tabulate the information in the files. Unsurprisingly, few people do it.
So those studies that do are to be valued, however limited they may be. And make no mistake, the AIFS study is quite limited, but it still has a lot of interest and value.
Perhaps the most significant datum from the study is that 97% of divorcing couples avoid family courts altogether. They decide between themselves what arrangement they want and either get a court to rubberstamp their agreement or simply proceed with no court order at all.
I’d love to have heard the reasons parents gave for detouring around courts and the family law process, but alas, the AIFS study didn’t ask. My guess is that people have a variety of reasons for avoiding court. One surely is that lawyers cost too much, so why involve them when the couple can sort things out for themselves free of charge? Plus, at least some lawyers thrive by exacerbating the inter-parental conflict that already exists during divorce. That makes feelings more conflicted and costs higher.
And that very chance of making a bad situation worse is likely another primary reason for parents not going to court. There are far too many horror stories in the news about divorce and child custody to not frighten a large percentage of divorcing parents away from the court system.
December 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
My last two pieces have taken to task, first the New York Times and then National Public Radio for soft-peddling the ill effects of single-parenting on kids. Those two articles are far from the first times those two media giants have done so and I’m sure they won’t be the last.
So it’s with considerable interest that Pew Research has published this piece on the children of single parents worldwide (Pew Research, 12/12/19). Perhaps the most important fact is that, among all the countries in the world, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in the percentage of its kids who live with a single parent. An astonishing 23% of our children under the age of 18 do. The rest of the countries combined have only 7% - less than one-third the U.S. rate - of children living with a single parent. Just four percent of China’s children, 5% of India’s and 7% of Japan’s live with a single parent.
Now, it must be said that many countries have low rates of single-parenthood in large part because the kids are living with extended families. So Mom may not live with Dad for whatever reason, but she doesn’t live alone with the kids. Instead, she lives with her mother and father, and/or her sister, her brother, their husbands, wives and children, etc. Whatever the exact makeup of those families though, extended families are better for kids than are single-parent ones. They tend to be better off financially and provide more social capital than a single adult can. Plus of course, the children are familiar with their relatives, so making a home with them isn’t quite the strange and alienating experience living with a single parent can be.
The Pew data also give the lie to the claim, so often taken for granted in this country, that Dad’s absence is due to his callous disregard for his children’s welfare, a.k.a. his status as a “deadbeat.” After all, how can it be that fathers in, say, India, are almost five times as “responsible” as are those in the U.S.? It doesn’t make sense.
December 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
In my last piece, I quoted sociologist Dr. Brad Wilcox thus:
For those who doubt that family structure denialism is a thing on the Left, one need only open the pages of The New York Times this week for yet another effort “to minimize or deny the importance of marriage and family structure.”
The NYT article he referred to was published on December 9. Well, here it is December 18 and NPR’s “Morning Edition” offers more of the same (NPR, 12/18/19).
The gist of the piece is that a child’s chance at a good life is strongly influenced by the neighborhood in which he/she grows up. Although NPR reporter Pam Fessler never mentions his name, her piece relies almost exclusively on economist Raj Chetty’s work on neighborhoods with high levels of opportunity and those with low. Here’s my piece on his interesting but oddly flawed research (Men’s ENews, 7/31/19).
My point was that, whatever the effect on a child of his/her neighborhood, I couldn’t see how Chetty’s information could inform public policy. After all, if a child lives in an area of low opportunity, what’s anyone going to do about it? If his/her parents could move into a better neighborhood, wouldn’t they have done so? Chetty’s is interesting information but of limited utility.
Surprisingly, the NPR piece answers that question and in the strangest possible way. Put simply, since Muhammed can’t come to the mountain, NPR wants the mountain to come to him.
On December 17, Stephen Meehan (NPO PA Chair) and NPO Executive Director Ginger Gentile gave us Pennsylvania updates on the sub-committee hearing that had the room packed with supporters. Watch the video and learn why the only real opposition is coming from lawyers who admit "we don't look at evidence in family court."
Want to join an affiliate or start one in your state and be part of the change? www.nationalparentsorganization.org
Text of the bill: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/billInfo/billInfo.cfm…
Proposed House Bill 1397 removes the definitions “primary physical custody” and “partial physical custody” and replaces them with “equal parenting time.” The proposed Bill creates a presumption that there will be equal parenting time, which is defined as, “as close as practicable to 50% of time spent with each parent, but in no case exceeding 60% of time spent with either parent.”